Bearfoot spent last week in Owensboro, KY, where they will be this week as well, serving as Artists In Residence with the International Bluegrass Music Museum. During this time they will perform at 22 nearby elementary schools, giving the students a chance to hear bluegrass music live, and learn a bit about the music, the instruments used, and how it all came to be.
The band was a natural choice, as they have put on more than 60 seminars for youngsters over the past ten years, starting back in Alaska and the northeastern US and Canada. These events eventually spread across the country, and came to be known as Bearfoot Bluegrass Camps for Kids. In addition, both bassist P.J. George and guitarist/vocalist Nora Jane Struthers are credentialed educators.
Nora Jane gave us a progress report about half way through their first week.
“The residencies have been a lot of fun so far. The IBMM has us going into two or three elementary schools a day here in Owensboro and performing a 45 minute assembly in each school. We’ve worked in five schools already and I think we’re really hitting our stride; we say, ‘Repeat after me, Bill Monroe..’ and 500 kids yell back at us, ‘BILL MONROE!!!’ I pretty much smile afterwards for 45 minutes straight.
To teach them about bluegrass rhythm, we get the kids to tap their little feet along with P. J.’s bass, then clap their hands along with Jason’s mandolin chop—this activity is definitely a crowd favorite. The second favorite is probably when they get to point at who is taking the solo.
I remember assemblies we had when I was a kid. Exposing kids to all kinds of music is a great way to get them involved in what can become a life-long passion, and I know the IBMM will have a bunch of little ones signing up for their new Saturday Bluegrass instrument lessons program that starts up next month.”
The Saturday program is designed to capture any interest sparked by the assemblies, and makes very low cost beginner classes (with instrument loaners) for school children available at the Museum.
IBMM is always on the lookout for decent, student-level instruments for their loaner program, so if you have one lying around unattended, they can put it to good use.
Full details about the Museum and their many programs can be found online.